How Do I Handle an Unjust Boss? Part 1

by Jeff Pruett

Our Gospel Community recently explored what a Godly attitude toward work looks like from a Biblical perspective. We spent a good bit of time looking at the attitudes and work ethic that are encouraged in Colossians 3:22-4:1. In the middle of our conversation, a great question popped up: “What if your boss isn’t worth following? What if they are unfair and unjust?”

I loved the honesty in that question!

Have you ever had a bad boss? Most of the people I have worked with can point to a time in their work history where they encountered a boss who was unfair, unkind, or even unjust. I can remember one boss in particular who would threaten me almost every day with bold statements like, “If you don’t finish what I’ve assigned you by the end of today, I’m going to fire you!” Then he would spend his time sitting in his office day-trading, surfing illicit web sites, or gossiping with co-workers. It was a very demoralizing work environment.

But what is a Christian to do? Are we supposed to roll over and take the abuse? Are we supposed to head for the door and find a new gig as soon as humanly possible? Are we supposed to stay and take a stand to minimize suffering for others?

These are heavy questions, without easy answers. If the Bible is supposed to be able to “thoroughly equip me for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) that must include how to handle an unjust boss, right?

Yes. That’s the good news.

The “less-good-news” is that there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

The Bible presents a number of teachings which can be applied to how to handle an unjust or unfair boss. Depending on your specific situation, you may find that one or more of these principles or examples directly applies. We’ll explore 3 “Do’s” and 3 “Don’ts” over the next two weeks and look at related Bible passages to help guide us through this challenging topic. Let’s take the bitter pill and get the bad news out of the way first, starting with the “Don’ts”:

3 “Don’ts” in Dealing with an Unjust Boss: 

Don’t #1: Don’t DQ (disqualify)

Before we conclude that we have an unjust boss, it is wise to do a quick self-check to make sure we haven’t disqualified ourselves by our own performance. Have I been giving my best at work? Am I following through on what is assigned to me? Have I been coming to work with a good attitude and working in a way that is honoring to my boss and co-workers?

Many times when we are held accountable for poor performance we are quick to label our boss as unfair or unjust in order to avoid facing the hard truth that our work might not be meeting legitimate expectations. This is not always the case, but we need to take responsibility for any part we play in the process and be willing to be held accountable when our work ethic or performance is genuinely lacking.

Proverbs 12:24 (MSG) presents a principle that we are wise to consider in this area:

The diligent find freedom in their work;
    the lazy are oppressed by work.

While an unjust boss may ignore diligent work, we need to be careful as Christ-followers to make sure that we are not lazy in our work. Before we declare our boss “unjust,” we need to confirm that we are not contributing to the problem… just because a boss says our work doesn’t meet our expectations doesn’t immediately mean they are being unjust. We need to be willing to examine our own work and be sure we have been diligent – otherwise our boss may be right in questioning our work, and we should take appropriate corrective actions if so.

Don’t #2: Don’t Reject Authority
When a boss seems unfair or unjust, it is easy for us to slip into a mode where we reject their authority or begin to discount their leadership. This reaction is dangerous. I remember early in my career when I felt like my company’s leadership was not making wise decisions. I shared my opinion with a co-worker, stating that I felt “our CEO is incompetent.” Those words traveled quickly, and I found myself in the CEO’s office having a frank discussion about my attitude. I had questioned his authority based on incomplete information and it did not reflect a Godly attitude.

Romans 13:1 presents a better attitude, recognizing that people in leadership (authority) are there because God allows them to be there:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 

We do well to honor those God has placed over us and guard our hearts against rejecting authority, even when leaders’ actions may seem unjust, incompetent, or evil. It honors God when we remember that He has allowed them to have the position they have, and do our best to be faithful in the aspects of our work that depend on us.


Don’t #3: Don’t Complain or Retaliate
It is tempting to complain or push back against an unjust leader. Your co-workers are likely already “venting” about how your leaders aren’t measuring up to their expectations. Yet Philippians 2:14 presents a clear direction to steer clear of complaining, grumbling, or arguing:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing 

Now before you dismiss this verse as “not relevant” or “out of context,” let’s keep reading verse 15:

so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…

Our call to do everything without grumbling (complaining) or arguing is so that the world will see that we are children of God, independent of the justness or unjustness of our boss. Our actions will point to Him as the reason for the difference and hopefully cause others to seek God as a result. That is why we don’t complain or retaliate, even if we have an unjust boss.

There’s the “don’ts,” tune in next week for the “do’s.”

Mothering Sunday

by Holly DeKorte

Living overseas exposed me to holidays and traditions that were unfamiliar. Early spring, British owned businesses in downtown Kyiv began advertising sales for “Mothering Sunday.” The holiday itself struck me as incredibly inclusive. Not a mother myself, I was still usually pushing a double stroller or carrying a child while walking down the road reading the advertisements. Though the children were not my own, I was mothering. People living internationally understand how it truly does take a village to raise children.

In the United Kingdom, “Mothering Sunday” did not begin as a day of honoring one’s mother; it began as a day honoring and returning to the local church. The fourth Sunday of Lent, people would return to the church of their baptism, essentially returning to the “mother church.” Along the way, servants (who were given the morning off) would pause and pick wildflowers for their own mothers. 

American Mother’s Day does not focus on the verb “mothering” as much as it does the office of motherhood. It essentially turns one Sunday a year into a day of “no access” for many women. Women do not fit into one tidy category. Think of the diversity! 

*A woman who has been struggling with infertility
*A woman suffering through the aftermaths of an abortion
*A woman who has had to say goodbye to a child
*A woman raising a child she has not birthed
*A woman raising children on her own
*A woman who does have children and/or the support of a loving husband
*A woman who has raised her children who are now out of the nest
*A woman who longs for children, but marriage isn’t on the horizon
*A woman who has no desire for marriage and children
*A woman who is happily married, invests in children, but doesn’t desire one of her own
*A woman who knows for certain that “all the best moms” don’t always get promoted to “grandma”

What, then, do we do with these women who might not fit the traditional definition of “mother?” We acknowledge that God creatively uses many people to act as a mother. Beyond that, we look to what God has supplied to all His children. 

God has given believers an amazing gift, the church. Through the church we receive God’s Word, nourishment for our souls. We receive the reminder that Christ’s body was broken and His blood poured out for all mankind. We receive baptism into Christ. We receive the hope we have in Christ. We receive the community of saints who live life on mission for God’s glory. The gift of the church is meant for all.

Isaiah 54:1-3 is one of my favorite passages of scripture: “‘Sing, O barren one, who did not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,’ says the Lord. Enlarge the place of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back: lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.”

As a woman who is not married nor is a mother, I take great personal comfort in this Isaiah passage. However, reading this scripture in context and as prophetic literature, its meaning extends far beyond encouragement for a “desolate” woman. Isaiah had just finished a thorough prophecy concerning Jesus. He then speaks to Israel in captivity and reminds them that they will return to Jerusalem. Isaiah points Israel back to the one true love, “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Isaiah 54:5. This prophecy was not only for the Jews and their return home, it is for the church, the Bride of Christ. One commentary points out that “enlarging the place of your tent” (Isaiah 54:2a) is a prophecy concerning Gentiles coming to faith. You and I have been welcomed into a prophecy made to God’s Holy Nation that is now extended to God’s Holy Church. And in this prophecy we have another assurance, “For the mountains may depart, and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you.” (Isaiah 54:10). This is the God who loves us; He calls us home to His church.

Should Mother’s Day be celebrated? I intend on honoring my mother who has indeed nourished and discipled me in faith. I also intend on honoring God’s gift, the church. You may not see me in a chair on Sunday, May 12; I most likely will be returning to the church of my dedication and baptism. Who knows? Maybe I’ll also stop along Bradley Road and pick some wildflowers for my mom.

 

Baptism Stories - May 5, 2019

by Element Christian Church

Today we are doing a couple of Baptisms. Usually we invite all of Element to come, watch and celebrate with those getting baptized. However, the crowd can be intimidating, so we are offering a smaller baptism for those who would rather prefer the more intimate setting. They are inviting family, friends and their Gospel Communities. 

You can still celebrate by reading their stories here, and when you see them in the weeks to come, congratulate them on getting baptized! It is truly an exciting step in their journey following Jesus.

Download Baptism Stories

 

Musical Chairs

by Kelly Borjas

Recently, we had a sermon on how worship can encompass anything we do (excellent point!), but I’ve been specifically pondering corporate worship through music (i.e. the dedicated time of singing songs at church), and the impact on my life as many of my presuppositions and beliefs have been shattered.

As a caveat, I can’t sing on key and I can’t clap on beat. In fact, if I’m ever going to clap on beat I need a person at the front of the room to do the dramatic motions so I can follow. Oftentimes I don’t clap because I get too distracted simply trying to keep time. We even sit in a specific spot in the sanctuary so I can hear the music, not myself singing (and sorry if you ever sit next to me on a Sunday morning). Yet, I love music. I love to worship through music at church. And I’m married to a musician (go figure!)

I’ve always said I’m a bit uncomfortable with elaborate emotional responses during musical worship. Yet, throughout the course of my life every time I walk into church after a difficult circumstance in my life, worshipping through music induces tears. Without fail, words of a song will start and I can’t sing without tears flowing (I can offer countless examples of this) and it makes me wonder: what is it that spurs my emotional response? 

It happened again last week. We received news that felt devastating, and I knew Sunday morning would be a difficult moment for me. In fact, I wanted to sit in the back so I could hide. My husband (gently) said if we’re part of a church I should be authentic and not hide just because I’m scared of how I’ll look, or because I don’t smile the entire time. I made it all the way toward the end of the music set, and then I heard my husband say, “this is a good song.” We sang: 

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night
But joy comes in the morning 

The wind is strong and the water's deep
I'm not alone here in these open seas
Cause your love never fails
The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I'd reach the other side
But your love never fails

Honestly, in that moment, the pain felt intense and the joy distant. The chasm felt wide. The words of the song mirrored my emotions and struggles. Yet, I believe, with all of my heart, that God’s love never fails and joy comes in the (figurative) morning, even if I don’t see it in the moment of my mourning. So I sang the song because it’s a cry from my heart, a truth to cling to, even when the water feels deep. I sing, even when it doesn’t all feel good. I sing because sometimes grasping onto truth is the reminder of where to steer my heart. That day, I held onto to my husband, and my dear friend (who is also in my G.C. and knows my current circumstances), handed me a tissue and held my hand.

As I’ve thought about that moment this past week, I’ve realized what happens in a time of corporate worship through music. A community of people gathers together—singing in one unified voice—to the Creator of the world, the Hope for sinners, the Giver of eternal life. I saw another friend stand and sing that particular song. My guess would be that person sang out of thankfulness and joy that morning. When I hear the voices of an entire congregation sing, it reminds me I’m not alone. It reminds me there are other people who believe; others who are in this journey together. I’m reminded that not everyone sings from a place of pain; some sing from a place of gratitude (as I have done so many times in the past). It gives me perspective—not all of life is filled with pain or grief; joy comes in the morning. Sometimes worship songs give me words when I do not have them. They are a way to express the innermost places of the depths of my soul—a cry to the God who loves me.

I’ve come to realize this is not merely an emotional experience for me—my actions or beliefs are not changed as a result of a worship “experience” or “reaction.” However, God has given me emotions as a tool to process some of the circumstances in my life through the lens of truth. He has given us music and a body of believers to walk together, to sing together as a way of magnifying Him. A time of corporate worship allows us to respond to what He is doing in our lives. When we sing as a group of people, we proclaim these truths and orient our hearts toward Him together.

The Struggles of Being the One in Four

by Aaron

On Easter this year we talked about The Miracle of Forgiveness. Whenever I hear the word for “forgiveness” my brain goes back to this old Don Henley song (he was in this band called the Eagles at one point…they were a big deal for a while). The song goes, “I've been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, but my will gets weak and my thoughts seem to scatter…but I think it's about forgiveness.” I think the words he wrote are true, even if he meant them in a different way: the heart of the matter is hard and our wills do not want to face it; instead we want to “scatter,” run another direction. A recent Barna study shows that 1 in 4 “practicing” Christians, people who claim to be born-again believers in Jesus, struggle or refuse to forgive others.

The good news here is that 75% of practicing Christians have offered forgiveness to someone else. The article actually says they offer, “joyful forgiveness to another person who had hurt, upset or sinned against them (or someone they love).” While awesome, the study also stated that only half of people said they remember someone offering them the same forgiveness they offered to someone else. There is a huge disparity in the results of the study where some can’t offer forgiveness, some do, and yet many people can’t accept it or even see it when it is offered to them. I believe this is all a result of not understanding the Gospel first. 

If you will indulge me I would like to talk about forgiveness (in a different way than I did on Easter) and see if I can’t give a bit of theological clarity that is useful.

In The Old Testament there are essentially three roots for where we get the word forgiveness. Two of the roots have a similar connotation that sit in conjunction with sacrifices and so are used with the word atonement, or covering our wrong before God. The coolest of the three is the root ns’; the word you see most often is nasa’ and it means to lift, to carry, to support, or to sustain. It is an incredible word that carries the picture of sin being lifted off of us and carried away by God’s provision; in the Old Testament this was through the temple, for us today it is all through Christ. 

Throughout the Old Testament the words for forgiveness are written in the connotation of awe and wonder. Our offenses before God merit punishment, but we are pardoned with His outstanding grace. The Intervarsity Press New Bible Dictionary states, “The OT knows nothing of a forgiveness wrung from an unwilling God…” meaning it is clear by the words that are used that God wants to forgive us our trespasses and sin before Him.

In the New Testament Jesus draws a connection in Luke 7:47 between those who have been forgiven, who understand that great forgiveness, and those who forgive others. The Barna study also bears this out when they ask people about forgiveness: of those who say they have received it 87% say they have given it in return (compared to 64% who say they have not received it). Can you imagine going through life and either thinking you have never needed to be forgiven or never experiencing forgiveness? Forgiveness is central to Christianity and reminds us who we are as people, a people who need God’s forgiveness because of how we have broken relationship with Him.

81% of practicing Christian believe offering undeserved mercy (extending forgiveness even before it is asked for) to someone else is something that God looks favorably upon (makes me wonder what the other 19% believe), but not everyone is willing to do it. 27% don’t want to, 23% “just can’t” offer that forgiveness and mercy. In one sense it is understandable--forgiveness is hard when hurt is so real and many offensives against us so heinous, but this is why we are reminded to look to Jesus as the “author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). When our eyes no longer linger on our own hurt, but on the graciousness of a God who brings us to Himself, a God who calls us His children, and a God who removes the offenses that we have done to Him, it is meant to change us.

Brooke Hempell, speaking about forgiveness in the Barna study said, “It’s what distinguishes it from any other religious faith. We are reconciled to God through Jesus’ sacrifice, and in response, we should be agents of reconciliation in every aspect of our lives. If Christians struggle to extend or receive forgiveness, not only do their relationships suffer, the Church’s witness is marred.” This is why I titled this blog “The Struggles of Being the One in Four” because many times I can react like that 25% who has my eyes on myself and thinks forgiveness is beyond my ability to give. It is only when I honestly look at who I am with all my own personal flaws and failures, then look at Jesus in His perfection, that I can agree with God about my sin and live in light of His forgiveness of me. When we live out our lives with a view of God’s forgiveness of us as a meaningful part of our lives, it teaches me to also forgive others.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean other who hurt me always get let back into my life to cause destruction, but it does mean I can honestly pray for others and want the best for them (which is coming to know the saving grace of God). Christianity is unique in that we believe God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus; in doing so He teaches us that forgiveness is central to who He is. We do not need to “work off” a debt before Him, he has paid the cost of our sin by sacrificing Himself, cancelling the debt and thereby enabling true forgiveness.

May we be a people who come to a place where we all are undone by God’s gracious forgiveness of us and learn to be imitators of Him.

 

 

Mentor VS. Disciple

by Kelly Borjas

Have you ever heard someone say they have a mentor? How about that they are “being discipled” or “discipling someone?” These are common phrases I’ve heard over the years. They’re frequent in many churches and frankly, kind of confusing. So what’s the difference between mentorship and discipleship?

I would guess most people assume “mentorship” is generally outside of a Christian context; whereas discipleship is the concept of helping a person grow in Christlikeness. Generally, a mentor is “further along” or more advanced than the mentee (at least we would hope). It could be a specific area (i.e. someone who mentors another person in career decisions (like how a Sous Chef is supposed to train the other people in the kitchen), or it could be general, such as someone to reach out to on an “as-needed” basis.

A cursory search and study on discipleship opens Pandora’s Box. Nobody has found the perfect form of discipleship (sarcasm inserted here)! Opinions vary on the best way to achieve and encourage discipleship. There are many words we use to describe it: Accountability partner. D-group. Bible study. Discipleship. Mentor. These are merely some of the terms I’ve encountered in my growth as a Christian, with the end goal being to grow in our faith. One article suggests codependency may result in a one-on-one discipleship relationship. The article also speaks to the author’s beliefs that her primary discipleship role is her kids; however, their family invites people to dinner often, and mutual discipleship occurs during dinner. Others suggest discipleship should be the main focus of our missional communities.

These opinions beg the question: what is discipleship? According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of disciple is: one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another: such as

  • A: Christianityone of the twelve in the inner circle of Christ's followers according to the Gospel accounts
  • Ba convinced adherentof a school or individual (ie: a disciple of Freud).

To start a quest on what this means for us, we have to look at what the Bible says. Here’s what’s fascinating: the term “discipleship” is not even in the Bible. What??? We have all of these opinions about how to achieve this and it’s not even mentioned in the Bible? Well, the term disciple is mentioned as Jesus says to “go into the world to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). If we are to do what Jesus says, to make disciples, we are sharing the gospel, and baptizing people. Simple. Yet the application is where this gets complicated. How do we achieve this?

The concept of discipleship (as we have come to label and understand it in American Christian culture —a growing in our faith and Christlikeness) is in the Bible; it’s how we live out the idea of making disciples. In Titus 2 we see older women are to… “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…” In Hebrews, we see that we should consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus himself had 12 disciples who followed him and “did life together” (to use a current phrase)—they travelled, ate and drank together, and pursued His ministry together. There are some key factors here:

  1. The biblical concept of discipleship is relational, not a formula.
  2. It is healthiest if it’s same-gender.
  3. The idea of an older woman connotes the idea of someone who is “further along” (which also helps alleviate too much dependency on another person instead of focusing on Christ).
  4. Meeting together for mutual encouragement and a push toward growth in Christ is a factor.

How does this translate into our lives?

Discipleship occurs as a result of intentional time spent with other Christians, but this doesn’t happen by osmosis. In other words, merely spending time with other Christians is not discipleship; that would be fellowship (which has its own valuable place). Discipleship requires intentional engagement on both parties to invest in the relationship with the mutual goal of growth. I would assume most Christians consider discipleship a process by which two or more people meet together and discuss the Bible, what God has done, and how to apply it to their lives. In an ideal world, prayer and accountability are included in that mix. It’s not a process by which a person grows alone. Most often, effective discipleship would occur in a consistent meeting together so true relationships develop.

There is a time and place for meeting with those who are ahead of us in both life and their walk with Christ, which may require even more intentionality with differing schedules. Mentorship, in a Christian context, is a component of discipleship, and one we should not quickly ignore. We glean much by learning from those who have “been there before” and can impart their wisdom.

I would suggest the difference between mentoring and discipleship may often be a matter of semantics, especially if we are Christians. As Christians, we take a Christian worldview on our lives; that means all of our decisions should be viewed through a lens of what God is doing in our lives and how we can glorify Him. Interestingly, as my husband and I were discussing this, our opinion is that a person we would turn to for “discipleship” would also be a good mentor in all areas of life, because a person is generally not a strong example if they do not have wisdom in the practical areas of life. My husband says he turns toward someone with credibility, both in their walk with Christ and their life decisions. That does not mean worldly success; it means a person who is able to filter all of life’s decisions through a gospel-centered lens. It’s a person who helps process decisions such as taking a job or making a financial commitment with the same goal of glorifying Christ first. For example, I have a friend who is an older, more mature Christian. I have met with her a handful of times over the years, generally when I am struggling in a particular area or could use advice, prayer, wisdom, and encouragement. We have never met consistently, but I always know I may contact her and she’ll be able to help me navigate through an issue. I would consider her a mentor who assists me as I grow in my faith, which is part of my discipleship.

Discipleship in a mutual form would be able to challenge one another, “Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17),” and is vital to our growth as Christians. We can all learn from those with different strengths and spiritual gifts, which is the ideal of the body of Christ as we meet together frequently. 

We need each other as part of our spiritual growth, which is why God gave us the Church. Our focus should be on Christ, because as we focus on Him we are transformed, and that transformation overflows to the body of Christ and those in our missional communities. The goal is that we would disciple each other, mentor those younger than us, and learn from those with more experience and maturity in their faith all to the glory of God.

 

The What-If Cycle

by Kelly Borjas

It happens often. A smidgeon of fear enters my mind, then I start entertaining anything that can go wrong. I “catastrophize” a fear to all the possible outcomes (generally bad ones or irrational ones…what if x, y, or z happens? Ironically, I don’t tend to dwell on possible positive outcomes). I engage my fearful thoughts and give them too much credit, which ultimately breeds anxiety and robs me of peace. I call it the what-if cycle. 

This has been a crazy week. My husband and I are both faced with situations that could have a lot of possible outcomes for our family, and I want to have the right outlook. I don’t want fear to rule my days, but I’m also scared to hope after walking similar roads in the past that resulted in pain. I know the past pain and struggles have produced growth, and even an increased dependence on God, but it’s still scary to face the unknown. I think many of us have times in life like this—whether it’s engaging in relationships after a loss of a loved one, starting a new job after loss of a previous job, or something else. How do we handle moving forward when the fear can feel paralyzing? 

My Bible Reading plan has been in Numbers (it’s a book in the Old Testament, trust me, it’s there). I literally prayed this morning for application to my life because it’s been a hard book for me to go through. This morning I read in Numbers 9, how the Israelites moved when the cloud representing the presence of God moved. “Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out…” And I realized, God has me where I am for now. Whether I’m in this situation for a day or two days or a month or longer…that’s where God has me now. It can be so easy to get ahead of myself, to be scared about the outcome, or what will come in the future. The “what ifs” can wreak havoc with my mind and heart, but if I take it a day at a time, I am reminded that God will sustain me. He will provide. I can trust in Him. I am not trusting in the outcome I want; I’m trusting that He is good, He loves me, and all things work together for my good, even if I don’t see it or understand.

A recent tool I’ve learned is to question what I’m believing about God when these thoughts or fears want to take over, then apply truth. Am I believing He’s good, or am I believing He’s up in heaven wringing his hands or haphazardly letting things happen on my behalf? Am I believing that I’m in control, or that He’s in control? Am I believing I need to earn grace, or that it’s freely given? If I’ve learned anything in the past handful of years, it’s how little control I actually have.  I have had to learn to “preach to myself,” not listen to myself, and I can only do this by walking in the Holy Spirit. Walking in the Holy Spirit can sound mystical or confusing, but it’s really just a dependence on Him and a reliance on Scripture. Sometimes that reliance is daily, sometimes it’s moment-by-moment, but it is always a prayerful dependence on God and His promises, on Truth that doesn’t change regardless of my circumstances. 

I need to remind myself that “my times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15), and the man who fears the Lord “is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…(Psalm 112:7-8).”

May we all take the what-ifs and the uncertainties we face in life and lay them at the feet of the cross, where the One who is certain and in control and full of grace and truth holds us and carries our burdens. May we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain us as we apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. I don’t know the outcome of the circumstances my husband and I are facing; however, I know where to turn, and for today, I am sustained. Tomorrow is a new day as “His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” Let us trust in His faithfulness.

Yo Tengo Gozo Gozo Gozo Gozo En Me Corazon

by Element Christian Church

Years ago we used to do these mission trips down into Mexico to work with orphanages and impoverished people. One of the things I tended to notice is that the children and adults were not as depressed as I would be as an American if I found myself in their same situation. It is all a matter of perspective on what they have and focus their lives upon. It was on one of these trips that a small church of poor laborers in Mexico taught me a song that went:

Yo tengo gozo gozo gozo en mi Corazon!
Donde? En me Corazon
Donde? En me Corazon
Yo tengo gozo gozo gozo en mi Corazon!

I never really learned Spanish and my memory of the song lyrics may not 100% correct, but that’s how my brain brings it back in recollection. They translated the song for me:

I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart!
Where? Down in my heart.
Where? Down in my heart.
I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart!

This is sung about Jesus saving us, bringing hope, and residing in us by His Spirit that brings a deep abiding joy “down in our hearts.” I was blown away by a people so in love with Jesus despite their circumstances that it has left a lasting impression on me ever since. 

Where does this deep joy actually come from and what is it (and by contrast, what is it not)? As all things do, I think it stems from God’s provision over us and His revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus. What we eventually see and understand about Jesus, even before His birth, is how the Prophets spoke about Him and His life: Isaiah 53:5 says “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” The words “as one whom men hide their faces” means He most likely was not a man of physical beauty as we would traditionally define it. Think about this: oral hygiene and dentists weren’t as popular as they are today. Can you imagine Jesus NOT having all of His teeth? I mean we hope He did, but most likely He didn’t. He was also rejected and despised by the very people He made. He experienced sorrow and brutality like none of us ever has…and yet He brings peace and joy to those who find their lives in Him.

Based upon what we know, it seems logical that joy and peace can’t stem from good looks, popularity, money, or having an easy life of leisure. We know this to be true because we can look around the world and see that those who have all of those things are just as messed up as we are. Then there’s the most glaring truth: Jesus had none of those things in His earthly life and yet experienced deep and abiding joy. Let me show you Hebrews 12:2 from a couple various translations:

  • We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. (New Living Translation)
  • fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (New International Version)
  • looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (English Standard Version)

This verse is the writer of Hebrews telling us how to set aside everything that wants to entice and snare us and begin to run the race as Jesus did…and how did Jesus do it? With the joy set before Him. Jesus, we are told, endured the cross, with all of our sins placed upon Him, because of the joy set before Him. What this tells me is that our joy is too small and we probably don’t understand the meaning of it as He does.

We most often look at joy as a byproduct of getting or attaining something, but Jesus sees joy as something that is extended to us by God Himself. It is why Nehemiah 8:10 reminds the Israelites that the joy of God Himself is meant to be our strength. Joy does not mean never having hardship, sorrow, pain, or grief. Joy is the fact God has found us and delighted to rescue us in Himself. The prophet Habakkuk in 3:18 says that even if all the crops fail and nothing is left, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my savoir.” Throughout the Old Testament all of the most ecstatic expressions of joy are concentrated in worship; that people are able to celebrate apart from material blessings shows that there have only been two essential reasons for joy: God and His salvation.

In the New Testament the apostle Paul finds great joy when people grow in their trust of God. The entire book of Philippians details how we can have joy even during sorrow because we realize it produces something glorious in us. He also reminds us that joy is a gift God gives to us in Galatians 5:22. God gives joy because it makes us strong. Joy is not happiness, joy is an abiding understanding of God’s goodness, salvation, and sovereignty. One of the last words of the entire Bible is about our joy: Revelation 19:6-8 “Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

 

The Ultimate Mic Drop

by Kelly Borjas

When I graduated from college (many years ago) I wanted to change the world. I wanted to be a public speaker and work for a company whose mission I was passionate about so I could do something that matters; I wanted my job and career to have meaning. You can imagine how discouraging it was to find myself (as most of us do) in a job that didn’t directly make a difference in the world (corporate sales). Somewhere in the process of feeling let down I had a realization—relationships with people at work and integrity in my job could make an impact for Christ. They made meaning of the meaningless.

I oftentimes have the same struggle now. As a mom of young kids the days can be long and monotonous (I’m not out changing the world or solving massive problems), but when I look at the days as an opportunity to help mold the hearts of my kids, there is eternal value. What’s the commonality between my “corporate work” life and my “mom” work life? It’s the idea that relationships are a vessel in which we can share what matters; a way to add value to our lives and grow in our faith. 

The question then becomes: what matters? If relationships are a way to share what’s important, then what is important?

I personally cannot answer that question without looking at Jesus and His role in my life. I believe after an encounter with Jesus (a life-changing, direction-giving, identity-naming encounter), our lives are changed…so I would like to focus this short blog post on Jesus. First, my disclaimer: I’m just a regular, church-going person. The focus of this blog isn’t a bunch of technicalities (because I probably don’t know them); however, it is about Jesus and how He changes our lives, specifically about how He’s changed my life. 

Why does Jesus matter so much in regard to how we relate to people? I don’t think I can answer that question without looking at the Bible as a whole—Old and New Testament. Jesus is the turning point in history. Before him, Old Testament laws and regulations prohibited true freedom. I’ve been reading through Exodus lately, and many of the regulations are, quite frankly, overwhelming and exhausting. I cannot imagine living in a time where every detail of a sacrifice must be perfect, or even that animal sacrifices had to be made to cover my sins. Yet, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). The Bible is full of people looking for redemption, for hope (think of the Israelites escaping slavery in Egypt, the desire and provision of earthly judges and kings, the exile and return in Nehemiah). They needed a savior. I need a Savior. Before Jesus, God still provided, but looking back (like a Monday Morning Quarterback), that era just seems overwhelming.

Then comes Jesus.

He fulfills the Old Testament prophesies. He is the Perfect King. He fulfills the law. He is the ultimate Judge. He’s the ultimate Pardoner and Giver of Mercy. He gives true freedom. Hebrews 10 says “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…” I love this imagery. It’s like the ultimate mic drop. He sacrifices Himself, rises from the grave, reveals Himself as risen to His disciples, sends the Holy Spirit, then sits down next to the Father. Boom. We, as Christians, have an eternal hope (in His steadfast love, in His grace, in forgivingness of sins). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I don’t have to live in a ritualistic way. This is literally life changing!

I’m a total rule follower (not always in a good way; rules for me can be a way to control and have security). I can easily fall into patterns of trying so hard (on my own) to earn forgiveness, to be “good enough” for grace. This is the largest oxymoron ever. I can never be “good enough” for grace, which is the whole point of grace! How can I not look at His grace and respond with joy? With hope? With a peace and an exhale that lets me rest and stop striving so hard?

Hebrews 10 continues with the idea that, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” we should “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean” and “hold fast the confession of our hope” and “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…encouraging each other (Hebrews 10: 19-25).” It goes like this: I can enter the presence of Jesus because of what He has done for me, which leads me to be assured of my faith and hope… and then I get to encourage others. This is where relationships come into play. Because of what Jesus has done for me, it changes my life, and should change how I view relating to other people. Every relationship is an opportunity to encourage someone—in the joys and struggles—because what Jesus did changes me. The love Christ has for me should spill over into my relationships with other people. 

As we reflect on the perfect life and work of Jesus, I pray it spurs us onto encouraging each other. I pray that the good news of Jesus changes all of us (I know I need daily reminders) so we can share His hope and joy with others. It’s in the sharing of life’s joys and struggles that we are able to apply and remember the Gospel. It’s within the fabric of relationships that we are able to have context for what Jesus does in and through us. It’s in the gathering together that we share how God is growing and changing us through the circumstances in our lives, and in those circumstances give and receive encouragement. Relationships matter because they are a vessel in which we can share Jesus—the biggest, most important discovery in life—with others.

 

Riding the Wave

by Kelly Borjas

Dinner with friends.
My sons’ birthday parties.
Weddings.
Saturday afternoon Tri-tip BBQs (with butter-soaked French bread, minus the beans).
A good bottle of wine with my husband.
Laughing so hard I cry.
Late-night talks when company comes to visit.
A long run with my running partners.
Trips to visit friends.
Coffee with girlfriends while kids play.

These are a few of my favorite things.”

I recently wrote a blog about depth, “going deep,” and relationships. I made a case that depth in a relationship derives from vulnerability and sharing on both parties. That blog focused primarily on the struggles we face. With this blog I was challenged to take a different angle—the joys and celebrations of life, and how those contribute to intimacy.

I smile as I think through my favorite things because most of them involve those close to me (family and friends). Often, these are the times in life we look forward to, plan around, and mark on the calendar; the times we hold with such anticipation. Granted, sometimes they are spontaneous and unexpected, like many gifts given by God, but they are all moments that make the mundane special. These are the memories that spark joy in the fabric of my life (not the things I need to declutter in my house!)

In the book of Nehemiah the Israelites are beginning to come back from exile when they reopen the words of the Scriptures. The people start a communal time of mourning and weeping because of the ways they have forgotten their past, dishonored God, and remember how faithful God actually has been. As they cry out Nehemiah tells them to stop grieving, instead saying Nehemiah 8:10, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Where times of hardship and vulnerability draw us closer together in deep friendships, so can (and does) joy and celebration. Nehemiah pulls them from their communal mourning over remembrance of their sin, and sends them off to experience communal celebration as a remembrance that this is now a new beginning; it is all done together. We don’t usually plan for seasons of hardship, but we can and do plan for communal times of joy.

To me, intimacy is a “both-and;” most of the time there’s not true intimacy based solely on sharing struggles, but it’s also unrealistic to think true intimacy is generated only on the good times (because hard times inevitably come). I like to think relationships (at least healthy ones) are like waves as they hit the beach. They ebb and flow based on the shared joys and struggles. In the ebb and flow the celebrations and struggles are both magnified and managed as we walk them together. If a friend prays for a baby or job or spouse, I cannot begin to explain how excited I am when that request is granted. In contrast, when I’ve seen pain and shared the hard spots of someone else’s life; it makes the good times so much more special.

Celebration is such a good practice because it magnifies God and reflects on Him as the giver of good gifts; it oftentimes marks the end of a time of waiting (just like the Israelites in Nehemiah). There are many times God’s good gifts are unexpected and unplanned, which is a humbling experience, but one to appreciate and celebrate all the more with those around us. 

I once heard someone say we should develop a history with God, so we remember how He has carried us before, and that He will do it again. I think that concept applies in celebration. We should celebrate what God gives us with each other—everything we have is an opportunity to point toward Him. That doesn’t mean life will be perfect, but when we are able to look at God’s gifts through this lens, we realize there is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3: 4-5).” As we walk through life in our communities, I hope we remember to ride the waves together, weeping together and laughing together, mourning and dancing together. I hope we celebrate the joys and enjoy the gifts God has given.

Rolling in the Deep

by Kelly Borjas

What does it mean to have deep relationships—or to have depth in a conversation? Recently I was challenged with this question because I’ve thrown that phrase around—that I like deep conversations or relationships, but putting a definition to this idea is very difficult. Shame on me for saying I like something I can’t even define! In fact, this question of depth has taken me weeks of processing, praying, and seeking God’s guidance. Truthfully, there’s some conviction here, because I’ve defined this my way (a way that works for me), and not necessarily in a way that represents many people.

Being “deep” is a hard topic for me to write about, but in an opposite way than you’d probably assume. I, Kelly, am most comfortable swimming in the “deep end” of the pool. Just this year I had an epiphany: I can do small talk well and deep talk well, but sometimes I’m not great in the middle area…just…talking. I get uncomfortable. For a lot of my life I’ve assumed most people want/desire this “depth.” But do they? Or is it just my comfort zone—a security blanket I wrap around as a way of defining myself?

I asked a bunch of people what it means to them to have depth and what it takes for that to occur. I could regurgitate my opinions, but my thoughts may not be indicative of the general masses. I asked local people, some far away, people I know well, people I don’t know well, men and women (thanks to my friends’ husbands who were my guinea pigs!), and Christians and non-Christians. Obviously this is not a formal survey (George Barna is not going to show up at my house and pay me for my work), but I wanted to see if there were any commonalities in responses despite the different personalities and backgrounds.

Most people defined depth as a shared vulnerability—risking judgement from the other person when sharing thoughts, desires, fears, etc. It’s the idea of sharing beyond the surface to what matters, even if it’s hard. Each person’s “issues” may be different; but the idea is to share more than polite niceties or exchanges about the weather. In other words, depth in a relationship does not mean people need to agree or share on the same topics; however, it means that there’s a two-way street in sharing life struggles and joys, as they relate to each person. There’s a safety and mutual respect for the other person’s opinion. Many people expressed a desire for a relationship with the other person (or the knowledge a conversation would have a follow-up). The men especially required trust, common interests, and/or respect (of the other person) to share.

I talked with a mentor friend about this topic and she reminded me that we are complex humans with a variety of backgrounds, personalities, struggles, and layers. We may not have depth with all people at all times, and that’s okay. (I’m reminded as I write that even Jesus had a smaller group of disciples in His “inner circle”). It takes time to develop depth. In other words, I would be naive to think there’s a formula to develop deep relationships or a magic number of people we should have in our inner circle. This is where I’m convicted. After a recent move to Santa Maria and the need to start all over, I’ve probably sought these relationships or conversations out of a desperation, loneliness, or insecurity (my desire to find community as I define it). However, I heard a definition for trust recently that resonated with me: time plus believable behavior. I like that, because it frames how we get to a place of trust (and therefore relationship).

This topic begs the question: should Christians have deep relationships? Is that a biblical concept? If we look at the early church (in Acts), we see a community of people who modeled teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer, and sharing with those who had need. I have to believe struggles were shared in those days—both physical and spiritual. The group of believers banded together to support one another. That takes sharing and vulnerability—not a mask of “having it all together.” 2 Corinthians 1:3 says God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others with the comfort we’ve received in Christ. Again, inherent in this idea is that we are sharing our struggles to lift others and build one another up, encouraging them in Christ. And yet, Colossians talks about bearing with one another, forgiving each other, and putting on love, which binds us in perfect harmony (Col. 3:12-14). This suggests even Christian relationships will have hurts and disappointments as we take the risk of growing together, and that we must forgive and love despite any pain.

Life is full of bumps and turns. It’s not easy. Yet, when we are able to have people who love and support us through these ups and downs, it lightens the load. I recently asked a friend (at Element) to pray for me regarding an area I’m having a hard time trusting and finding peace. This friend has walked this road I’m on, and understands the struggle. She responded with a tear in her eye, a text message the next day, and encouragement to rely on my husband as we seek peace and direction on this topic. I’m so thankful she shared her struggle with me, and can encourage me.

As I write this, I write with conviction. May we all invest in our communities and share our struggles and joys. May we all listen without judgement, and share without fear. May we all pray for one another, comforting each other in Christ (i.e. applying the Gospel) as we journey together. It’s a process of learning and growing, humility and forgiveness, but I believe it’s one that will transform us as individuals and a community at large.

If Only

by Kelly Borjas

If Only…

It’s a frequent idea that seeps its way into my mind, my heart. An “if only” that promises a better outcome or more success, yet it’s cloaked in a nobility of wanting to improve or be a “better version of myself.”

Comparison. 

As a wife, mother, woman, the struggle is real to compare myself with others. I do it all the time in a variety of contexts. I compare how I look (am I skinny enough?); I compare how my house is decorated (is it nice enough?); I compare how my kids are dressed (are they trendy enough?); I compare my personality to someone else’s (do I talk too much?); I compare what I do (do I have enough personal goals so I’m not lost in the abyss of just being a mother?); I compare my kids’ performance (are they well-enough behaved?); I compare my spiritual walk with others (do I read my Bible enough?).

I am constantly seeking that elusive standard of “enough,” fearful that someone, somewhere will say I’m not enough (there are a lot of issues embedded in this—perfectionism, contentment, resting in grace...the list could go on. But for this blog I am narrowing this specific issue to comparison.   

How can I begin to think biblically on this issue that seems to invade my life? I know comparison can steal the joy God intends for me to ground myself in, but I also see the need to compare myself to Jesus as He is the true standard of holiness. Seeking after varying levels of worldly success gets exhausting, and it starts to feel like I’m a hamster on a wheel—running in circles with no momentum forward. 

I would first like to point out that I don’t have all the answers, but I think there’s something to be said about rooting our identity in Christ. I was talking to a couple of girlfriends this weekend about this, and one commented that “rooting our identity in Christ” (while being true) still rings a bit like a trite comment or cliché answer. She’s right. We throw that phrase around without really applying it. So how do we find our identity in Christ and not let all the other comparisons distract us?

I keep thinking I have to go back to what the Bible says: I’m a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). He’s created good works in advance for me to do (Ephesians 2:10). He will continue the good work He’s started in me (Philippians 1:6). When I think about those truths, I must ask myself, “Why am I striving for anything other than trying to love Jesus more?” Why can’t I be confident that God created me with my personality, gifts, passions, etc.? Why do I think I will feel better about myself if I (fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-standard-I’m-trying-to-meet)?

I think I forget. I forget who God is and what he’s done. I believe the lie that something else will make me feel better about myself. I need to remember, we all need to remember, that God’s grace is sufficient for us in ways that give us purpose that can propel all of our lives forward. He’s given the Holy Spirit to lead, help, and guide us as we walk through life, which directs us all to a place where we need to actively remember. The only way I know how to “remember” is to have a community of people who will remind me. Have conversations that steer me deeper into Christ’s truth and can tell me when I’m looking for some cheap satisfaction. My husband can spot when I’m too obsessed with some direction, and tell me I’m chasing something in the wrong way. I have a handful of friends who can do the same.

I don’t think the comparison game gets any easier as we get older. In fact, it may be more difficult because there’s so much to compare. But soaking our hearts in truth and having a group of people who can support us in that quest may be part of the answer to rooting our identity in Christ.

Vacation, from Prayer?

by Aaron

I hate blogs where I show you my deep, personal flaws, not because I hate blogs about deep, personal flaws—I just hate when they’re my flaws. Having said that, let me explain my situation and see if you can relate (if not, feel free to judge me with every form of self-righteousness). I hope you can indulge a bit of personal introspection during this blog…just imagine it is another growing moment like the author of Ecclesiastes tries to get us to see. 

At the end of 2018 and the first few days of 2019, I went on vacation to the (mostly) snow (or ice) covered winter wonderland that is Lake Tahoe. Some friends of mine, and their kids, rented a large house together to get away, relax, and have some fun. We enjoyed ice skating, snowboarding, sledding, movie watching, cold picture taking, snowmobiling, eating, cooking, thrift shopping (we call this “poppin’ tags”), and beverage consuming. We watched TV shows, played pool and games together…the only thing we didn’t do together, until almost the last day, was pray.

I felt so tired at the end of most days, still recovering from the year, that I essentially found a spot and interacted sporadically with others (unless it was in the form of a video game). When the last evening there rolled around, I had finally come out of my funk enough to be cognizant at dinnertime. It was then I realized we hadn’t said thanks to God for any meal the entire week. You have to understand that this is odd for me, because I typically do say “grace” over every meal. During the whole time away I did pray and read my Bible every morning, but for some reason, I never even realized that we hadn’t prayed as a group.

I hope anyone who went with us on this vacation doesn’t take this blog as an indictment in any way, because it’s not. I was simply astounded at how easy it was to forget to thank God in one of the most stress-free and mundane ways possible. I have asked myself over the last few days why it is easier for me to personally remember my own prayer time, but forget the great beauty and joy of corporate prayer. Everyone on vacation with us was in a GC or happens to be a GC leader, so it is not like they would have been surprised or offended by praying. As a matter of fact, they all would have gladly jumped in! But…none of us seemed to remember. Isn’t that odd?

As I have processed the last couple of weeks, I think part of it came to down to our comfort with one another. No one felt like they had to impress anyone else, or be more “spiritual” than we actually were, but I also think another part of vacation is that we leave our “normal life” for something that is “other.” We step away from routine and do something different, which makes us forget the various habits, good and bad, we have in our lives. I hope I am not overanalyzing this too much, but it makes me start to worry that corporate prayer for me is more of a habit, rather than daily heartfelt remembrance. I want to open my eyes and my heart to naturally fall in love with Jesus in such a way that prayer flows out of me wherever I am…maybe I am just not as enamored with Jesus as I thought.

Or…maybe this is exactly what God wanted to me to experience as a sort of wake-up call, to see the natural inclination of my heart. To be honest, the natural tendency of my heart is toward self-centeredness even in the moments when I think am the least self-centered. Moments that open my eyes, like this vacation, are God’s grace to me, reminding me not of His disappointment or judgment, but of His gentle love that leads me back to Him. I can so easily forget God at times, but He has never once forgotten about me! Throughout that entire vacation, God was there with me. Though I forget to pray and speak with Him, He is consistently speaking and leading me…and if he does it for a knucklehead like me, He also does it for all of you.

In Matt 28:20 Jesus reminds His disciples that He will be with them “even to the end of the age.” If you look at the disciples’ lives, you will see many times where they seemed to forget Him, but Jesus promises not to forget them. Psalm 94:18-19 the writer cries out that he is slipping (maybe he went on vacation and it snowed too much for his car to stop on the downhill), but then he says, “Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” The writer says this because he understands that God’s love for us is not dependent on our effort, but upon who God Himself is.

This is what makes me want to remember to pray, to want to thank God when I am alone, and to want to thank Him when I am with others. It is God’s steadfast love first given to me, the same love given to you. That is what makes me thankful and that is what God teaches me even when I forget. What does God need to remind you of when you forget Him?

Repost: Trevor Carpenter's Message on Jesus

by Element Christian Church

Sunday, Aaron was talking about how most people come to the realization that life is beyond them in one of two ways. They either have everything they ever wanted and they are still empty, or their life crashes and people lose everything and realize it is all meaningless. During this point, he referenced a message that Trevor Carpenter gave a few years ago. Trevor died a couple years ago from cancer, and after after a bout of chemo he said, “I don’t want to waste my cancer.” He wanted it to teach him and others something. For many people it takes almost losing everything to realize what God has already given you.

Watch Trevor's message about Jesus here:

And listen to Aaron's message this past Sunday about how Life is Vapor (Meaningless).

Splitting The Adam

by Aaron

I love the title of this blog post, though I can’t take credit for it. Richard Hess is an Old Testament Scholar and professor of Semitic languages at Denver Seminary who wrote a paper called Splitting the Adam: The Usage of ʾĀadām In Genesis 1-5. In this paper, which is part of the Vetus Testmentum Supplements (you can see them here) he talks about how the word used for Adam is used 34 times in Genesis 1-5, yet in only 5 of those occurrences does it reflect a personal name. The other times it is used it refers to mankind in general (a reading like this tends to freak people about who look at Genesis 1 with ONLY an ontological purpose).

Now you may be wondering why I start a blog in the new year with words you don’t understand and talking about a book you will never read by an author you have never heard of…the answer is: Because we need to learn to be a people who trust the bible, but also understand the context in which it is written. When we do this well, we will encounter lots of people that may make us think outside of the box that we have placed God within…this is what the article I mentioned above did for me. Though I may not agree with all of his points, I do not think it is heretical in any way.

When I have a couple of weeks off, as I just did, my brain starts to think about lots of stuff (sometimes these are things other people don’t care about). I started thinking about how a couple of years ago I was personally cornered at one of our connect parties by someone who had just started attending Element for a couple of weeks. They asked me a question about origins from the book of Genesis and I replied that we have to be careful because Genesis wasn’t written in a 21st century scientific mindset, it was written from a Hebrew perspective. When we look at days and times we must understand that no Hebrew at the time would have been trying to figure out the day and time creation began by looking at the genealogies, their view of Genesis 1-5 would be one of functional origins.

What I mean by that is their questions would have been: Who made it all? The answer laid out clearly in Genesis is: God. The next question would be: Why did He make it? The obvious answer is: His glory. Today we ask questions like, “Was it ten thousand years ago or ten billion years ago?” The answer of the Genesis account is that THOSE questions really don’t matter because that’s not the point of Genesis. What we should be asking is, “Why were humans placed into this creation,” because the answer to that is what Genesis concerns itself with…and the answer to that question is: to be God’s image bearers, partnering with Him on His behalf to order creation in ways that glorify God and bring fulfillment.

The person at the connect party didn’t like my answer and said that Genesis was a psychological, scientific, philosophical, and religious text and that anyone who said different wasn’t reading the bible correctly. I was accused of not taking the bible literally (meaning her personal interpretation of what “literal” meant) and therefore I was teaching heresy and was wrong. The only saving grace out of this exchange is that they were one of the few who didn’t immediately go out and write a Google or Yelp review about how terrible Element is as a church.

If you didn’t guess, no, they never came back to Element.

I recently finished a book by John Walton titled The Lost World of Adam and Eve which covers in detail a biblical view of human origins that may be hard for some people to even consider. Again, I do not agree with everything in this book, but I do not think the author is heretical, at some points he is quite brilliant in thinking outside the standard theological box. In the end his main thrust is that we must do better in allowing conversation and debate about human origins because it is often cited as one of the major reasons people leave the church or feel unwelcomed. For some reason the view that science stands against the scriptures is one that many a misguided Sunday school teacher has told students under them...and they are wrong, nature and the bible do not contradict.

What if there was a way to enter into a dialog with people who sincerely want to trust Jesus, but they look at Christians with suspicions because they think believers in the Bible are afraid of “science.” I believe that as Christians we need to be able to tell people what the scriptures are truly about before our personal opinions, no matter how great we think our opinions are, but in the end don’t have much bearing on the message of salvation. We need to explain that whatever or wherever people find themselves God has never abandoned them, that He seeks relationship with us, and that He is about the restoration of our lives into what we were originally meant to be: image bearers of Him. In Romans 8:19 the Apostle Paul says it like this: For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. That’s us!!!

All creation waits for God’s promised rescue and restoration. This is the point of the Scriptures: God’s work in the person of Jesus to restore and redeem. This is what runs through the Bible, all the way from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, that Jesus is what matters and we can be in relationship with Him. If we are going to fight for a truth, let us be a people who understand that truth and passionately present it to the world.

 

 

 

Christmas Stockings for Delta

by Element Christian Church

This year we stuffed stockings and gave each student and staff at Delta High School a movie ticket and some candy. Here's a card and message we wanted to share with each student:

Merry Christmas from Element Christian Church!A Little about Saint Nicolus